The dawn of the smart connected home

archos smart home tabletIf I were to ask you to think about what a home of the future may look like, your vision will no doubt be different to mine or somebody else’s. However, one consistent theme that I imagine would exist is the idea or notion of connectivity and integration.

What I mean by this is that everything in our lives is in sync and we have greater control over what we do and when we do it.

Starting with simple tasks like being able to put the oven on from work so by the time you get home, it’s hot and ready to be used.

There may then be the slightly more adventurous vision that you can remotely open and close doors to let the dog in or out or a maintenance man.

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The Sony Z1 Compact is the device for me

Z1_Compact_Review_ImageOnly a few weeks ago I wrote here about how I thought the Z1 Compact may not be the device for me, despite my desire for it to be.

At the time of writing, I was going off of the spec sheet and the overriding area of concern was the physical size of the phone in comparison to what was then my primary device, the Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Z1 Compact was only factionally smaller, despite having a 0.7” smaller screen, so you may see my reasoning for thinking there would be little point in changing.

Well a few weeks on I can say I must take back what I said. The Z1 Compact is the device for me. I have switched to this as my daily phone.

Am I settled with it completely yet? Honestly speaking, no; but I am close to being.

It is taking a bit of time to adjust from the Samsung UI to the Sony one, but with the help of time and a few apps I am very close.

When the device actually made it to the palm of my hand and I compared it to the S4 the difference was certainly noticeable.

One handed use is now possible. It was on the S4, but it was not easy or comfortable.

It is easy for me to say this, but there is a bit of excess bezel around the device which would be nice to see gone, but no doubt if a Sony engineer read this they would be screaming at me, telling me it is not possible in such a small phone!

Some may argue it is a step back or wonder why, but it is always a personal decision and I am pleased to say my initial hopes and desires have been proven with the Z1 Compact.

The IP rating is of benefit and the phone feels more premium thanks to the aluminium frame.

The battery life is considerably better than that of the S4. This may have something to do with the lower resolution display but I can live with this for the majority of what I do. I won’t lie and say full 1080p would be nice, as the difference is noticeable, but on a scale of things I am willing to give up, the screen sits towards the top of the list.

The covers on the ports can be a fiddle as I have yet to invest in the DK32 charging dock, but when the battery can last a couple of days its a much smaller issue.

So to conclude, I am very happy with the Z1 Compact. It is not often until you get the device and use it do you really appreciate what it has to offer and should often not discount something just because of its specs or physical dimensions.

If you are interested to hear more detailed feedback on the device, then read or watch my full review here. I will too provide more thought and opinion on the device in a few months time, here on the Clove Blog.

I thought the Xperia Z1 Compact was the device for me

Sony Xperia Z1 CompactFor some time now I have been wanting a device that does it all but is smaller than the feature rich handsets that currently exist on the market.

Most of the feature rich handsets that I want have a screen size of 4.7” and above. However I am demanding something smaller, something with a 4.3” to 4.5” display.

The reason being is I just find the bigger handsets a little bit cumbersome to use sometimes. I wrote about my plight back in August last year here.

As I mentioned last year the Sony Xperia Arc was an epic device, I loved it and I think part of me is hanging out to rekindle that love.

When Sony announced the Xperia Z1F for the Japanese market I let out a little yelp of joy and sadness. Joy at the fact that what I thought would be perfect had been announced, but sadness that it was launched only in Japan only.

Motorola Moto G

Then the Motorola Moto G comes along and gets considerably close to what I want but it does not have it all, it does not have the higher end features such as video out and ideally I would like a higher resolution camera.

Slightly depressed I put it to the back of my mind and then Sony announced the Z1F as the Z1 Compact at CES. They caught my attention again!

Twitching with excitement like many smartphone lovers do (sad and geeky I know) I began looking through the tech specs. The smaller battery is a shame but the device is smaller than the Z1. The lower screen resolution is not an issue for me either and it will drain less power so together they are not that much of an issue.

IP rating over and above my Samsung Galaxy S4 is a bonus, but then the high came crashing down. I looked at the dimensions and compared it to the S4.

The S4 measures 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm whilst the Z1 Compact 127 x 64.9 x 9.5mm.

Of course the Z1 Compact is smaller but there isn’t that much variance in my opinion considering there is 0.7” difference between the two screen sizes.

Now I have yet to actually hold the Z1 Compact in hand, so it may feel smaller than the S4 when I actually use it, however I am concerned that there will not actually be enough physical size difference between the two to make the Compact the device I desire. I am concerned I will be thinking for the marginal extra size, I might as well continue with a device with a much bigger screen and higher resolution.

The extra size has to be down to Sony’s styling and IP rating, so maybe in 12 months time there will be a different device that suits me perfectly, or maybe when I get my hands on it in very soon I will change my mind.

This is most definitely a first world problem but I am sure I am not alone when I say that it would be great to find the perfect device for me.

If you find yourself in similar situations, let me know.

A smartphone purchase – an emotional roller coaster

Roller_Coaster

Saying that buying a smartphone is an emotional roller coaster may sound a little dramatic, but at the end of the day it is all about emotions and like a roller coaster there are ups and downs, twists and turns, we may just not really think about it so much.

Lets look at the facts:

You decide you want a fun day out full of thrills and adventure
You make a decision you need a new phone

You hear there is a new ride being built at the local park
You hear that a new phone is to be announced at the next tech conference

You anxiously wait for the new ride to be built
You anxiously wait for the new phone to be announced

You hear the ride is better or worse than you had imagined
You read the specs of the phone are better or worse than you had read previously

The ride is complete and unveiled to the world
The phone is announced

Initial reactions and feedback comes in from thrill seekers
Initial reactions and opinions come in from tech journalists

You decide to go and try it for yourself
You decide it is the phone for you

You wait for the day to come until you can ride it
You wait for the first stock to go on sale

You are apprehensive as to what it will be like – The wait seems to last for ever
You are excited and nervous as to whether you made the right decision -– The wait seems to last for ever

You go to the park, your about to ride the roller coaster
Launch day is here and your order is about to ship

Your up, you’re seated and about to go
Your order has shipped and the phone will be with you tomorrow

The ride begins and you can’t control yourself
The package is here, you just want to open it

You love every minute of the ride despite the scary parts
You love your phone despite the fact it cost you a fortune

The ride has ended but you want to go again.
Your battery has died where you keep trying things

You go again
You charge it up and keep trying and testing

The pattern continues until you loose the excitement, there are better ride and better phones, so you start the whole process again.

At each stage of the process be it the roller coaster you are thinking or feeling something about the whole scenario. You may not communicate it to others but you feel it. Happy, sad, dubious, anxious, excited, you get the picture.

We all come with different thoughts and opinions and phone buying habits but I wouldn’t mind betting if you like the latest phones or have an interest in technology, your thought pattern is something similar.

If you need help dealing with your smartphone buying roller coaster, we at Clove are here to help as we go through the exact same thing.

HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4 upgrade dilemma

For the last 12 months I have quite happily been using the Samsung Galaxy S3 as my phone of choice.  Believe it or not, despite the wealth of handsets I have on offer to me in my role I do not change that often. In fact I have little need to upgrade even now, but I have recently sustained some damage to my S3 so now seems as suitable time as any to decide on an upgrade.

I could spend days looking at all the finer points of which device to go to next, but here is the though process I have gone through.image

What I like about the Samsung Galaxy S3?

My S3 has held up pretty well. Whilst not perfect in every area it still runs fairly fast, the battery life is acceptable and there are plenty of features on the phone.

I like that it is well supported with accessories and some of the key things like microUSB positioning work well. For example it frustrates me how Sony’s microUSB ports are on the side of the phone.

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Naming conventions and design strategy: Samsung vs HTC

Revolution vs Evolution

Both HTC and Samsung have just announced new top of the range devices. Both run on Android and have comparable feature sets, but the design approach and naming conventions used for the two are vastly different. Samsung’s approach to its flagship over the last 12 months – a consistent name and form factor – has given it an advantage other than money when it comes to marketing, which is quite the opposite to how HTC is positioned.

Many have been quick to comment, almost discerningly, that the Galaxy S4 is an evolution, rather than revolution, of the S3. This is true, but it’s a wise and well-considered move from Samsung – at this stage it’s much better in terms of sales for it to make iterative additions to its catalogue than to revolutionise its flagship each year. That’s not to say HTC’s choice to overhaul its design is foolish – it isn’t – but rather that decisions made over the last couple of years have dictated how these two handsets are named and shaped.

So the Samsung Galaxy S4 seems like a slight upgrade from the S3, but we shouldn’t have expected anything else. It may look very similar to its predecessor, but it also looks similar to the Note 2 and, to an extent, the S3 mini. You can tell it’s an upgrade, but not so much so that it’s unrecognisable from the rest of the family. Similarly, we can expect the Galaxy Note 3 to follow the design of the S4 – as was the case with the equivalents last year – and we may even see an S4 mini released  to offer a feature set that sits between the S3 and the S3 Mini. This creates a situation for Samsung whereby it has 5 or 6 devices released within 18 months of each other that have the same look, but cover a spectrum of features and budgets. In other words, if you want to buy a new smartphone, chances are a member of the Galaxy S or Galaxy Note range will fit your criteria. At the moment, therefore, it doesn’t make sense for Samsung to revolutionise a handset and form factor that has become so well-known.

Galaxy Comparison

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Windows Phone 8: the third wheel or a genuine contender?

The growing popularity of Android and iOS has some people worried that we are facing an era of mobile monopoly, but with two major players dominating the market. It is hard to judge if this is a big problem because having two companies dominating is not a constrictive situation in most industries.

In the mobile industry, however, it means that the best apps, accessories and news coverage will gravitate towards those two platforms and this puts the others at a disadvantage which is not easy to recover from. With RIM struggling to bring relevance to the BlackBerry platform, we are left with Microsoft to try to break the stranglehold that Google and Apple have at this time.

I have spent the past week working with Windows Phone and come to some conclusions as to where it is at currently, what could be improved and what potential it has.

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Do you really need LTE?

I am going to be a luddite now and suggest that you do not need LTE. Continue reading to find out why.

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Smartphone ‘How To’

Because sometimes we just have to ask.

ID-10087052There comes a time for most of us (we know some of you know all you can about phones) when we are just not sure of how to do something. 

There are many examples we could give, from a simple factory reset through to setting a a specific led notification light colour for emails from your Mum.

So the question is who or where do you turn to, to find the answer?

Friends, the web, forums, the manufacturer, the phone shop?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Water Damage–You don’t have to drop it in a bucket of water

It can’t be water damage, I didn’t get it wet!

ID-10056037

We have all heard of someone who has dropped their phone in the sink, in a bucket of water, in the river or even in the toilet.  The result usually is the death of the phone or electronic device that came into contact with the water.

However the increased time we spend with our phones and electronic equipment means that more devices are being damaged, often beyond economical repair as a result of water damage.

Now it is fair to say that most products like smartphones and tablets should and often will survive the odd water splash be it from a tap or the rain.  However, unless specifically sold as waterproof or water resistant then the devices are still prone to water damage. Even those sold as waterproof can be subject to water damage under certain circumstances.

Manufacturers are doing more to protect devices.  Making stronger seals and even coating products to be water resistant but this will not always stop water.

It is often under estimated or forgotten that our phones spend so much time with us.  At home, at work, in the garden, during sports, at the beach on holiday etc.

Each location has different humidity’s and something like taking your phone into the bathroom that may be hot from the steam, can and does ingress into your phone through the smallest of gaps.  Running with the phone in our hand as a music player and GPS logger, sweat can drip and sit on the phone. This moisture has to go somewhere and it can settle on the main board of the phone, the expensive bit that gets damaged and is uneconomical to repair!

Now this is somewhat of a contentious issue because equipment should be able to survive our modern lifestyles but a phone can’t be designed to suit everyone’s uses and as phones get more capable, as well as older, more worn and abused

All of these give rise to a wealth of potential opportunities for water ingression and damage to occur.

I know this is a contentious issue and water damage can write off for many of us £500 which we can not afford to replace.

However, I wanted to just gently remind you to be considerate to the things your phone goes through on a daily basis and question, if your phone were to become water damaged, but you haven’t dropped it in a bowl of water, why that might be.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Whatareandroidphones

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